Release Day: East of Ecstasy by Laura Kaye

It’s release day for Laura Kaye’s EAST OF ECSTASY!

EAST OF ECSTASY is the final book in her Hearts of the Anemoi Series. See below for a note from Laura and an excerpt!!

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East of Ecstasy Excerpt:
By Laura Kaye

You guys! I can’t believe release day for East of Ecstasy is finally here! This is the final book in my Hearts of the Anemoi series, which includes: North of Need, West of Want, and South of Surrender. The Anemoi were wind gods the Greek associated with controlling the wind, weather, and seasons. In East of Ecstasy, hero Devlin Eston is the heir to the East Wind which has long been associated with unluckiness, misfortune, and, thanks to Devlin’s father, even evil. Devlin himself has been the victim of father’s evil, and thereby finds himself an outcast among his own divine family. In this scene, heroine Annalise Fallston—who gets visions that she’s forced to paint in order to quiet them in her mind—sees Devlin for the first time.

Here’s what she says:

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Forcing the chaos in her mind away, Anna dipped her brush into the gray and stepped to the canvas.

Motion captured her attention from the corner of her eye.

The Dark Man, the subject of her recent paintings, stood in the doorway and leaned against the jamb.

Anna jumped and her pulse raced, but this time, anger flooded in instead of fear. “I will deal with you on my own damn terms,” she said, taking a perverse amount of pleasure from putting a figment of her imagination in its place. Because that’s all he was.

He didn’t move or speak. Not that he could, since, you know. Figment.Of.Imagination.

Anna rolled her eyes, done with being scared and so pissed to have to do this again that she was nearly out of her mind. “I’m doing your damn painting already. So just leave me alone.” She cut her gaze back to the expanse of white, but the desire to see if his image would still be there if she looked again drove her to distraction.

Finally, she gave in and…he was still there.

Completely still. Blatantly scowling. Totally unfathomable.

Was this a vision? Another image she’d have to paint?

Her heart tripped into a sprint, and she couldn’t look away from him. Like the compulsion that forced her to paint these images, Anna couldn’t help but return his stare and memorize his masculine features. The sharp angles of his face, the harsh set of his mouth, the dark shadows around his even darker eyes.Black eyes. Blades of black hair hung low over his forehead and just touched the hooded shirt he wore under his short, scuffed leather jacket. He’d crossed his arms over his chest, and the position caused his biceps to bunch up under the worn leather. In fact, everything about him appeared worn—the coat, the threadbare jeans, the scuffed boots. None of it struck her as the kind of shabby chic you could buy in some upscale store for a small fortune, either. The whole effect was rough.

Dangerous. Deprived.

Deprived? What a strange way of describing him. But as Anna’s gaze swept over him again, the thought stuck. For his height, he seemed thin, with his lean hips, clad in old black jeans, a trim waist, and pronounced cheekbones. Her fingers twitched around the nearly forgotten paintbrush. What would it feel like to cup that harsh face in her hand?

Anna gasped and tore her gaze away. She had to blink to pull herself out of the haze of thoughts.

Frustration surged through her and tensed the muscles of her shoulders and neck. She didn’t want to be working on another of these paintings as it was, so the last thing she needed was to lose a bunch of time daydreaming. Or would it be daynightmaring?

As she stared at the blank canvas, the image of the shackled man behind the prison bars filled her mind’s eye.

Definitely the latter.

Curiosity pulled her eyes to the left again. The doorway was empty.

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So, did you have a favorite line from the excerpt? Thanks for reading!

Laura

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About EAST OF ECSTASY:

The final chapter in the award-winning and bestselling Hearts of the Anemoi series…

She’s the only one who can give him the strength to save them all…

Annalise Fallston made peace with postponing her big-city dreams to care for her ill father, but lately she’s been filled with a restlessness not even her beloved painting dispels. Worse, the colors don’t speak to her as they always have, and all her efforts produce dark, foreboding images of a dangerous man and a terrifying future.

Devlin Eston, black-souled son of the evil Anemoi Eurus, is the only one who can thwart his father’s plan to overthrow the Supreme God of Wind and Storms. But first, Dev must master the unstable powers he’s been given. Distrusted and shunned by his own divine family, he never expected to find kindness and passion in the arms of a mortal.

But Devlin’s love puts Annalise in the path of a catastrophic storm, and in the final Armageddon showdown between the Anemoi and Eurus, sacrifices will be made, hearts broken, and lives changed forever…or lost.

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Anemoi box set

Catch up on the whole series with the Hearts of the Anemoi box set featuring the first three books: North of Need, West of Want, South of Surrender!

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About Laura Kaye:

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute-but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

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Review: East of Ecstasy by Laura Kaye

East of Ecstasy (Hearts of the Anemoi, #4)East of Ecstasy by Laura Kaye

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review.

 

This review may contain spoilers for earlier books in the Hearts of the Anemoi series. You could try to read EAST OF ECSTASY as a stand-alone book, but I would strongly recommend that you read the previous three books first.

After all the life and death struggles for the brother-gods of the Anemoi, those who seek to stop their brother Eurus from destroying all in his path have come together for the final battle between good and evil. We have already met the good Anemoi, and seen them fall in love with human women as they work against Eurus, he who controls the East Wind and seeks to wipe out humanity along with his fellow gods and goddesses of Nature. EAST OF ECSTASY is our formal introduction to Devlin, middle son of Eurus, and one who may be good or evil, depending on who is telling the story.

In previous books, we saw Devlin from afar as he appeared to be doing his terrible father’s bidding, and heard how the other Anemoi believed him to be a threat to their cause. But in EAST OF ECSTASY, we discover that appearances are not as they seem, and that Devlin himself is the key to any hope of success in defeating Eurus before all is lost. But before Devlin Eston can find redemption, he has to find love. And that love comes from a woman who may contain more than a mere spark of divinity herself.

Annalise doesn’t look or act like anyone else in her family, or anyone else in their part of Maryland. Her countenance is almost colorless, including her pale gray eyes, and although she’s a gifted painter, the only time she can actually experience color is when she’s in the middle of creating a new work of art. When she spots Devlin hiding in her studio, it’s a toss-up as to who is more surprised, as no one has ever sensed his presence when cloaked in invisibility before now. But that’s just the start of all the unusual abilities Anna manifests in the initial moments after he reveals himself to her. It’s clear that Anna must be a descendant of one or more divinities, but when her parentage is revealed, even the Anemoi are taken aback. Yet it’s Anna’s concern for Devlin’s well-being that makes her valuable to their cause, and to him. Love can’t cure all, but it can be the missing element that helps a wounded hero heal in time to save the world.

Devlin would never consider himself any kind of hero, wounded or otherwise. Though he may be a god, his father Eurus is a stronger one, and that strength has been used against Devlin as the worst sort of weapon. Devlin has been judged unfairly by those unaware of just how greatly he has suffered at the hands of the one who should have loved and cared for him. And like so many other victims of parental abuse, Devlin has taken blame for his father’s evil deeds upon himself in the mistaken belief that somehow he personally could have prevented all the death and destruction. When Anna shows Devlin that he can love and be loved, it causes him to lash out at her at first. But Anna is resolute, and her unwavering need to show him he deserves better is what helps both him and those who should be his allies come together in shared purpose to stop Eurus from carrying out his plan to destroy the earth with a powerful storm unleashing all four winds. The question remains, however, as to who will survive among the Anemoi and their loved ones before success is finally theirs.

EAST OF ECSTASY is a wonderful payoff for loyal readers of Laura Kaye’s Hearts of the Anemoi series and an enjoyable romance in its own right as the abused and misunderstood Devlin finds the one woman who can see beyond his ingrained defenses to the gentle soul who has been starved for love his whole life. Even though the events of the past few books have taken place in only a few weeks’ time, the ultimate outcome never feels rushed or truncated. The final battle is just as fierce as I had anticipated, and the road to the Anemoi’s happy ending had me crying both sad and happy tears in turn.

I wasn’t a big paranormal romance fan when I began reading this series back at its start. But through the previous three books, Laura Kaye made me a believer in the Anemoi, and this final entry, EAST OF ECSTASY, is her crowning achievement.

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Cover Reveal: Hard To Hold On To by Laura Kaye

Laura Kaye is thrilled to share with you the cover to her next Hard Ink book,
Hard to Hold On To
which releases on August 19, 2014! Check it out:

HardToHoldOnTo hires Edward “Easy” Cantrell knows better than most the pain of not being able to save those he loves–which is why he is not going to let Jenna Dean out of his sight. He may have just met her, but Jenna’s the first person to make him feel alive since that devastating day in the desert more than a year ago. Jenna has never met anyone like Easy. She can’t describe how he makes her feel–and not just because he saved her life. No, the stirrings inside her reach far beyond gratitude. As the pair are thrust together while chaos reigns around them, they both know one thing: the things in life most worth having are the hardest to hold on to.

Pre-Order at Amazon | Amazon.ca | Amazon UK | B&N | iTunes

Hard to Hold On To on Goodreads

And don’t miss the other Hard Ink books, now available:

Hard As It Gets
Hard As You Can

A Note from Laura:

Hey guys! I am so excited about Easy’s book that I can hardly wait for August to get here! Easy’s character was a total surprise to me. When I initially plotted out the series, there were four surviving members of the Army Special Forces team and therefore I planned for and sold four book in the series. But then, when I sat down to write Hard As It Gets, all of a sudden the story demanded there were actually five guys, and Edward “Easy” Cantrell was born. And I’m so glad! Because Easy’s character is a totally tortured hero, which I adore writing! So I’m super happy that we added his story and this novella into the series, and I can’t wait for you to learn about Easy in Hard to Hold On To! Is it August yet??? xo, Laura

Praise for the Hard Ink Series:

For Hard As You Can:

“TOP PICK! There is a sinister and desperate edge to this tale that will keep readers glued to their seats. Kaye has dark romantic suspense nailed!” ~ RT Book Reviews Magazine

“Hard As You Can is another five star read. The characters Ms. Kaye has created are wonderfully broken and the drama is gritty, but the burgeoning romance and the tight-knitted relationship of the team leaves you with a sense of redemption. A must read series!” ~San Francisco Book Review

For Hard As It Gets:

“Edgy, sexy and full of suspense! A great read from a great new author!” ~ #1 NYT Bestselling Author J.R. Ward

“Sizzling romance… The intriguing tattoo parlor and military background will appeal to fans of Suzanne Brockmann and Lindsay McKenna.” ~Publishers Weekly Review “Kaye’s depiction of sexual tension and her sex scenes are masterful and this will appeal to fans of Maya Banks’ KGI and Julia Ann Walker’s Black Knight’s series.” ~Booklist

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About Laura Kaye:

Laura is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over a dozen books in contemporary and paranormal romance. Growing up, Laura’s large extended family believed in the supernatural, and family lore involving angels, ghosts, and evil-eye curses cemented in Laura a life-long fascination with storytelling and all things paranormal. She lives in Maryland with her husband, two daughters, and cute- but-bad dog, and appreciates her view of the Chesapeake Bay every day.

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Review: Bound To Be A Groom by Megan Mulry

Bound to be a GroomBound to be a Groom by Megan Mulry

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

Although I’m a big fan of Megan Mulry’s contemporary romances, this is my first time reading one of her historical romances, but if BOUND TO BE A GROOM is any indication, I’ll be adding them all to my To Be Read list. This book featured something I haven’t seen too often in erotic romance, and especially in historical erotic romance: a true MMFF polyamorous relationship. And to her credit, Megan Mulry made it work for me in this unusual context, although I’ll include the disclaimer that what I know about the year 1808 in Spain and England would fit on a grain of rice.

As our story begins, we meet Anna Redondo, the unacknowledged by-blow of her mother’s affair with a visiting English diplomat while still married to the Conde de Floridablanca. Anna has been locked away in a Spanish convent for most of her life, now newly released to attend her friend Isabella’s wedding. Then it’s off to a lifetime of servitude as a lady’s maid in the King of Spain’s court. Anna has other plans for her future, and they all involve Pia, her best friend in the convent and secret lover. Anna intends to become a noted courtesan to raise the money to keep herself and Pia together forever, but needs to learn the ways of men (and rid herself of her pesky virginity). So when a handsome man catches her eye in an all-too-knowing way, Anna presses her advantage, and changes her future forever.

Sebastian de Montizon didn’t expect to find his future bride at the wedding of his friend Javier de la Mina, but when a sweet little convent girl turned out to be the Domme of his dreams, how could Sebastian possibly resist? He’ll do anything to keep her happy, including sending for Pia to be an essential member of their new household. But when the three meet up in England with Lord Farleigh, a mysterious duke from Sebastian’s past, can their unconventional relationship expand by one more without ruining what they already have together?

The one word description that came to mind when I finished reading BOUND TO BE A GROOM was voluptuous. This book is all about sensual pleasure in a way not often found outside of erotica proper (as opposed to erotic romance, which this most definitely is). There isn’t too much worry about whether each additional member of this polyamorous relationship will be able to fit in properly, but there doesn’t really need to be, either. It helps that there are clearly two Dominants and two submissives in the mix, and that no lasting jealousy ever rears its head as they try out various pairings and positions. The only time I even briefly questioned its plausibility was when Farleigh’s mother was so understanding about his proclivities, but hey, she’s a mother who loves her son dearly, so why not? I’m not going to look too closely when the interactions between the two heroes and heroines are as interesting and well-written as these, with an elevated sexual excitement that (figuratively) steamed up my Kindle. Even the prerequisite baby epilogue (another detail that differentiates this from regular erotica) provided a lovely end to the story without losing its innate naughtiness to standard romance conventionality. I can only hope there will be more adventures to come in this unique series, as I’d love to read them all.

Favorite Quote:

“Anna…”

“Yes, darling? You like that, don’t you?” She tapped the crop a few times against her palm, testing its resistance.

“Yes,” he whispered.

“What a fine instrument you are.” He wasn’t sure if she was talking to the crop or to him.

Then she began.

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Release Day Blog Tour: Dare to Desire by Carly Phillips

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Title: Dare to Desire

Author: Carly Phillips

Release Date: April 10th, 2014

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Dare to Desire

 

Synopsis

Quarterback Alex Dare, had it all — an all-star football career with the Tampa Breakers and his choice of willing women — until a severe injury forces him into early retirement. When he is offered a ground-breaking position with a rival team, he’s intrigued, but there’s a catch. He’ll be working alongside the same woman he hasn’t been able to get out of his head for too long.

Social worker Madison Evans grew up in foster homes and knows first hand what it means to have-not. She isn’t impressed by Alex Dare’s wealth or charm. Not since she fell hard for him once before, only to discover she was just one of his too-easy conquests. This time around Madison refuses to succumb to Alex so easily.

But Alex wants Madison. And if there is one thing Alex does well, it’s to get what he wants. The playboy athlete must prove he’s got game in more places than on the field. He means to prove that he’s a changed man but no sooner does he begin to break through Madison’s defenses when a new opportunity comes knocking and threatens her new-found trust. Can he make Madison take a risk and dare to love?

Excerpt:

Without replying, Ian opened the door. They stepped into the room, and Alex laid eyes on the one woman he hadn’t been expecting to see. The same woman who’d haunted his dreams and sidetracked him from many of his nightmares.

Madison faced him head on. Her shoulders drawn back, golden-blonde hair pulled away from her face, she didn’t back down from his stare. She wore a pair of black slacks that hugged her curves and a white silky-looking top that clung to her generous breasts. And those unusually blue eyes frosted over at the sight of him.

“Alex, I believe you know Madison Evans.”

Blindsided — and his half brother knew it — Alex strode up to her. He inhaled her familiar fruity scent, which only served as a reminder of the hot times he’d spent breathing her in as his cock moved inside her body. Her effect on him was potent, and even the most common expressions failed him.

“Alex,” she said, her cool tone bringing his head out of the desire-filled fog he’d found himself in.

“Hey, Angel,” he said, using the endearment he’d started calling her during their brief time together. Another sign he’d had it bad, whether he’d wanted to admit it or not.

Her head whipped up, her eyes narrowing and settling on Ian. “This won’t work.” She turned to go.

Alex still had excellent reflexes, and he grabbed her arm before she could stride past him.

She glared.

He didn’t look away, determined to win this battle of wills. This potential job, which had interested him on an intellectual and emotional level initially, suddenly felt even more important, and she was the reason.

“We need to talk,” he insisted.

“I have nothing to say.”

“Ian’s proposition said otherwise.”

Madison looked over his shoulder in search of Ian and frowned. “Well, the traitor is gone. No big surprise there.”

Smart man, Alex thought. “If I let you go, will you stay long enough to discuss this position Ian and Riley want me to take?”

She let out a frustrated puff of air.

He took that as a yes and released her.

“Us working together is not a good idea, and somewhere in that thick head of yours, you know that.”

“Because we slept together? More than a couple of times?”

She set her jaw. “That was a mistake.”

Ouch. That hurt, he thought, and filed away the why to deal with later. “I want to know more about this training program and what my role in it would be.”

“Why? You can’t possibly be interested.”

“It sounds more like you don’t want me to be interested.”

She rolled her shoulders back even farther, stiffening her posture. “You’re right. I don’t. This is a serious project that could help a lot of people and have far-reaching positive repercussions for years to come. I need a partner willing to go all in. And let’s face it, I’ve seen your staying power. It’s nonexistent.”

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About the Author

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New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carly Phillips

N.Y. Times and USA Today Bestselling Author Carly Phillips has written over 40 sexy contemporary romance novels that today’s readers identify with and enjoy. After a successful 15 year career with various New York publishing houses, Carly is making the leap to Indie author, with the goal of giving her readers more books at a faster pace at a better price. Her Serendipity books will still finish up in January/February 2014 via Berkley as planned. Carly lives in Purchase, NY with her family, two nearly adult daughters and two crazy dogs who star on her Facebook Fan Page and website. She’s a writer, a knitter of sorts, a wife, and a mom. In addition, she’s a Twitter and Internet junkie and is always around to interact with her readers. You can find all information about Carly at her website and other social media sites …

Facebook | Goodreads | Carly’s Website | Twitter

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Review: Dare To Desire by Carly Phillips

Dare to Desire (Dare to Love, #2)Dare to Desire by Carly Phillips

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

Although I’m familiar enough with Carly Phillips to have several of her earlier books on my To Be Read list, DARE TO DESIRE is the first book I’ve read from her. In this second book of her new self-published Dare To Love series about the children of a man who had a second family while still married to his first wife, the hero is the oldest son of the woman his father took first as mistress, then as wife once their relationship was publicly exposed.

At the beginning of DARE TO DESIRE, Alex Dare is still dealing with the fallout of being one of the previously “secret” Dare siblings while continuing to excel in his successful career as a NFL quarterback. He’s even snagged a lovely lady to share his public and private time, although her friendship with his half siblings could be a liability if he ever tired of her company. Overall, things are going along pretty well for Alex, until that fateful Thanksgiving Day game when he ended up at the bottom of a dogpile on the field. It was bad enough being in the hospital and finding out that his risk of permanent injury would force an early retirement. But then he had to go and kick Madison out of his room and life when all she had done was stop by to see if he was okay. Now it’s six months later and after pushing nearly everyone else out of his life, Alex gets a call from Ian, his oldest half sibling, with an opportunity that could not only get him back in the NFL, but also back in with Madison, the woman he should have never let get away.

Madison Evans knew all too well that most people couldn’t be trusted to stick around, especially the people who claimed to love you. As a social worker, she’s made it her life’s work to help kids with the same problems she’d had in her own childhood, and won’t have her head turned by money or influence. Yet she couldn’t resist when Alex turns on his considerable charm, and had only herself to blame when it was all suddenly over after his career-ending injury. Now that the husband of her good friend Riley has offered her the chance to set up a new mandatory post-career education program for his NFL team, Madison is excited about being able to change lives outside the narrow confines of social work. But when her new boss Ian Dare sets her up to work with Alex, Madison has to decide if she can handle working directly with the man who broke her heart, and if he’s really changed enough to earn her trust a second time.

One of the things I especially enjoyed about DARE TO DESIRE was how I was able to work my way through all the intricate relationships between the two Dare families and their associated friends, even though this was the second book and my first read in the series. The fact that Alex was childhood friends with Riley, Ian’s wife, has helped smooth the way between the two men somewhat, but it will still take time for them to get past all the hard feelings stirred up when their father divorced Ian’s mother to marry Alex’s mother.

As a new reader to the series, I hadn’t seen Alex in action as his earlier self-centered manwhore self, other than in the brief prologue when he dumped Madison while still in his hospital bed. But it was apparent from her memories that at least from her perspective, he’d only been a nominally good boyfriend before their breakup. Sure, the sex had been frequent and amazing, but he hadn’t been particularly considerate whenever he was approached by strange women any time he and Madison had been out in public together. So just because the two of them still find each other irresistible shouldn’t and doesn’t mean all is forgiven on her part.

In DARE TO DESIRE, Alex is fortunate to have multiple chances to show Madison he’s changed by how he treats her while working on their new shared project and how he helps her out with the court case being brought against her by her foster brother. And as Madison slowly warms to the idea of reuniting the man she still loves back in her life for good, the ties between Alex and his family of half siblings are also strengthened, extending the joy of the story’s happy ending beyond Madison and Alex to their shared loved ones as well. The richness of its family background is what elevated DARE TO DESIRE beyond a basic romance for me and it’s why I’ll be reading the first book and all the other ones to come.

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Review: Having Her by Jackie Ashenden

Having Her (Lies We Tell, #2)Having Her by Jackie Ashenden

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

After experiencing one of my biggest book hangovers ever with Jackie Ashenden’s first book in the Lies We Tell series, TAKING HIM, I knew I would be in for it with HAVING HER, and boy howdy, was I ever right. In this second book, we get to see what happened after Kara, Ellie’s best friend, suddenly excused herself from the bar at the comic convention they were both attending in a scene from the previous book. We already know how things went down with Ellie and Hunter — now it’s Kara’s turn with Ellie’s super hot but totally disapproving brother, Vin. And as wonderful as TAKING HIM was, HAVING HER manages to be even better.

Kara may put up an aggressive front against the world at large, but it’s all just to protect herself from more heartbreak after her trust in love and family was shattered at the hands of her alcoholic mother. Since then, it’s been easier for Kara to put others off than to let them close enough to reject her first. But that’s made it difficult for her to accomplish her new self-imposed task of finally losing her virginity, despite her multiple attempts to pick up a strange man for just that purpose. Picking up guys was easy; it’s what to do with one once she had him that still had Kara stumped. At least she knew that Ellie’s brother Vin would always be there to rescue her, even when she didn’t want him to. Especially then. But when Vin insists on picking Kara up at the door of yet another random guy who’d expected more than she was prepared to offer, she realizes that the answer to her problem is right in front of her. Vin.

When Vin and Ellie’s mother became seriously mentally ill and their father did his disappearing act, it was up to Vin to keep his baby sister safe. Now, years later, protection mode is all that Vin seems to know how to do well. He’s also convinced himself that he’s just like his rotten father, that he could never truly love another person. Despite all this, Vin still finds himself drawn to Kara, even as everything she does grates on him. The crazy clothes, the ever-changing hair colors, the insistence on constantly placing herself in what he considers dangerous situations…it’s enough to make a man insane. So when Kara sets her sights on him as the man to relieve her of her virginity, he refuses outright, only agreeing after she goads him beyond his otherwise iron control. Vin makes it clear that this will be on his terms only, and love should not be expected or given. But Kara needs someone to take charge, and Vin is just the guy to do it. Things between them seem to be progressing nicely, until the day when an unexpected event changes the nature of their relationship forever. That’s when Vin and Kara must each face what damaged them in the past if they want to embrace the happiness they both deserve in the future.

When I say this HAVING HER was an emotional read for me, I mean it was all cheering, laughing, yelling, swooning, and crying in large amounts. Jackie Ashenden knows how to make you feel for her characters in a way that pulls at your heart without piling on the drama in outrageous ways or unbelievable amounts. Yes, Kara and Vin both had traumatic childhoods, and yes, it’s messed them up in ways that kept them both from being able to reach out to anyone else until now. But the emotional moments in HAVING HER come from the intimate scenes where their hearts and souls are exposed to each other, not from wallowing in overwhelming grief at what’s already past. This book is a true erotic romance, in that the intimate scenes between its hero and heroine are essential to the plot and character development in every way. It’s only through kinky sex that Kara and Vin can even begin to learn to communicate with each other, and it’s the result of their sexual relationship that forces them into deciding whether to commit to each other fully, or to walk away from their first, and possibly last, chance at true love. I was so drained by the time they reached their happy ending that all I could do was grab a box of tissues and cry it all out. In a good way, mind you. In a very good way. I don’t know if Jackie Ashenden has other books planned for this series, but I know I’ll be the first in line to read one. I may have recovered from this book by then.

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Review: Desperate Match by Lynne Silver

Desperate Match (Coded for Love 5)Desperate Match by Lynne Silver

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

This review contains spoilers for previous books in the Coded For Love series. You can read DESPERATE MATCH as a stand-alone, but I think you’ll enjoy it more if you have read the entire series.

DESPERATE MATCH is Lynne Silver’s fifth Coded For Love book, and the first to be self-published (all previous books were released by Ellora’s Cave). Although I have enjoyed the entire series, I have to say that this story is the best one so far. Perhaps it’s because the ever-present threat of the evil Dr. Paulson was finally eliminated in the previous book, or perhaps it’s because Lynne Silver is just getting better as she delves more deeply into this world of The Program. Whatever the reason, it’s great to see yet another erotic romance series that I discovered at Ellora’s Cave continue with an well-written self-published entry.

DESPERATE MATCH starts with a look at the woman whose current living situation is the source of the desperation noted in the title. Jill Thompson is only 24 years old, but the last five years of her life with her abusive husband have aged her in a way no person should ever have to bear. Jack’s need to control every aspect of her life seemed charming back when they dated in high school, as she mistook his behavior for some starry-eyed notion of true love. It was only when they were both out of school and married in a home of their own that the true Jack appeared, leaving Jill with few options for rescue. But now Jill has found hope in a news story about The Program, the decades-long classified military project for creating enhanced soldiers, and their search for female volunteers to breed the next generation. Their heavily guarded military compound in Beltsville, Maryland is only a few hours away from where Jill lives in rural Virginia, so if she can get herself approved as a volunteer DNA match for a soldier there, then she can finally be safe from Jack and his fists.

Back at the Beltsville campus, Rowan Blacker has volunteered to be matched for breeding if a woman can be found for him. Rowan’s birth defect has always made him feel like less than a complete member of The Program, even though he’s otherwise enhanced as much as everyone else. When the woman who is supposed to be his perfect DNA match appears on foot at the front gates, emaciated and bedraggled, Rowan wonders what he’s gotten himself into. Meanwhile, Jill’s first thought is how can a man missing one arm possibly protect her from Jack when he comes looking for her? Needless to say, this first encounter between Rowan and Jill does not bode well for their future together. And yet the attraction, however muted, is there. When Rowan discovers what propelled Jill to put herself in the hands of The Program, he vows to help protect and free her from Jack, no matter the cost. As Jill begins her slow and painful recovery from years of abuse, she and Rowan carefully begin to trust each other, even as her presence soon becomes a major liability for her protectors. For Jack isn’t going to let Jill go without a fight, thanks to the help he gets from a secretive group intent on attacking those who believe in the mission of The Program.

I’m a big fan of this series, but I was relieved to see that this new book was going to be more about the hero and heroine finding their way to happiness with each other and less about the external threats to The Program and its members. Being accepted by The Program for their breeding program was Jill’s last best hope to escape her abusive marriage, and I cheered her on as she planned her successful route to freedom. Although it was painful to see her initial negative reaction to Rowan and his missing arm, it would have been unrealistic for her to accept him with no questions asked, especially given her condition when she arrived on base. And certainly Rowan wasn’t expecting his DNA match to be a woman so literally beaten down on arrival that she barely had the energy to flinch whenever he tried to approach her. It would take lots of time and tender loving care for Jill to return to the woman she had once been, and for Rowan to see more than just the shell she had become while living under Jack’s oppression.

The best part of DESPERATE MATCH began when Jill was finally back to her old self and better able to appreciate just how much Rowan really was the best partner for her, even as she continued to work toward a semblance of independence from him and The Program. Rowan had his own growing to do if he was ever going to accept Jill as his equal partner in love and life under the auspices of The Program. By the time they reach their HEA, both Rowan and Jill have transformed from the two people who met under strained circumstances at the start of the book to a loving couple who are ready to support each other in every possible way. It’s a beautiful end to an compelling journey, and a wonderful continuation to one of my favorite erotic romance series.

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Review: Requested Surrender by Riley Murphy

Requested Surrender (Trust in Me, #4)Requested Surrender by Riley Murphy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

REQUESTED SURRENDER is the fourth book in Riley Murphy’s TRUST IN ME series, and while you don’t need to have read the first three books in the series, you should read A DATE WITH A DOM (Trust in Me #3.5) before you read this book. A DATE WITH A DOM is available at Amazon for 99 cents (free read with Prime), but portions of it can also be read for free at Author Riley Murphy. You could be lost at the beginning of REQUESTED SURRENDER if you do not read this short prequel.

I’ve been enjoying Riley Murphy’s Trust in Me series at Ellora’s Cave for a few years now, but hadn’t seen a new book since early 2013, so I was pleased to learn that she would be self-publishing the next book in the series this year. I’m pleased to say that REQUESTED SURRENDER is just as good as the books which preceded it, and happy that self-publishing has rescued a series I’ve always loved.

David Hollan is one of several Doms who co-own The Carlyn, an exclusive resort with a BDSM flair. We’ve seen in the past two books how he’s been trying to get closer to Lacy Pembrook, a woman he finds equally attractive and frustrating. It seems to David that Lacy is always playing a version of herself, one who never takes anything seriously even to the detriment of her own happiness, and he wants to know why. Because David suspects the real Lacy is the woman who can be the submissive he needs, even as she clearly needs him to keep her safe and happy and loved.

Lacy does appear to be a scatterbrained happy-go-lucky type of woman who runs away when things get difficult. She starts all kinds of plans, but never fully follows through. She’s a gifted artist, but never really did anything with her obvious talent, instead choosing to attend veterinary school to please her father. Yet even with her successfully completed degree, she still hasn’t managed to open her own practice. And even though she and David have been dating seriously for a while, Lacy still hasn’t let him know that the “Jo” she still spends time with in her house is actually “Joe” the hunky contractor with whom Lacy had briefly toyed before David came into her life. Now the revelation about Joe has finally pushed David into confronting Lacy with a plan to show her how she needs him in her life to provide structure and guidance, and help her embrace her true submissive self.

Although I was happy to return to the Trust In Me series, I’ll admit I was as all over the place as much as Lacy was, at least at first. REQUESTED SURRENDER began right as David’s discovered Lacy’s major lie of omission and moved forward immediately into what David did to keep Lacy from running away when he confronted her about it. Even as David and Lacy grew closer in their new D/s relationship, it became clear that neither one of them was quite ready to commit to another person, thanks to their individual past experiences with people who had betrayed them. David’s issue with trust stemmed from the only other woman he’d ever loved, and how her addictions had ultimately forced him to kick her out. Her ability to constantly mislead led him to be overzealous in his protectiveness of Lacy, which has then goaded Lacy into deliberately defying him at every turn. Lacy’s problems were more deeply hidden, and even I had no idea what could be causing her to throw her happiness away with both hands even as she acknowledged how important David was to her.

It wasn’t until all of Lacy’s past history was revealed in the face of David’s confrontation with those who hurt her that REQUESTED SURRENDER finally came together for me. Only then did I truly understand what made Lacy tick and how David’s patience was the key to happiness for both of them. Their romance was a long time coming in this series, and its satisfying ending bodes well for book 5, REPUTED SURRENDER. Its hero, Michael Kavanaugh, has been waiting for his own true love since the very first book in the series, when he attempted to come between a married couple trying to find their way back to each other. I can’t wait to read his story next.

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Review: Perfect Catch by Sierra Dean

Perfect Catch (Boys of Summer, #2)Perfect Catch by Sierra Dean

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A copy of this book was provided by the author for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

Sometimes you read a sports romance where the romance is great but the sport isn’t represented accurately. Sometimes you read one where the sport is spot-on but the romance is lacking. And then sometimes, if you’re very, very lucky, you read a sports romance where everything is done perfectly. It can’t be a coincidence that during this first week of the new baseball season, I got lucky with PERFECT CATCH, the second book in Sierra Dean’s Boys of Summer series. (I also enjoyed the first book, PITCH PERFECT, but you don’t have to read that book for this one to make sense.)

PERFECT CATCH is the story of a woman who’s had to be everyone else’s rock and how she finally finds the one guy who will be that person for her in return. Alice Darling may have made a huge mistake years before in trusting a professional ballplayer with her heart and her body, but her beloved daughter Liv is worth every sacrifice, even if it means working two jobs and swearing off all baseball players for good. And as a part-time umpire for spring training and minor league games, the last thing Alice needs is to be accused of using her feminine wiles on the players to get ahead. What she never planned on was the likes of Alex Ross crossing her path. It’s easy for Alice to ignore all the guys when she’s hiding behind her umpire’s mask and gear. But it’s harder to pass up a good-looking guy in a broken-down Porsche, especially when you’re the only one who can help him change a flat tire.

Alex Ross thought this would be just another pre-season, just the usual six weeks in Florida needed to make sure his game was up to snuff before Opening Day. When his rental car got a flat, he didn’t expect a beautiful woman with dangerous curves to be his rescuer. But Alex knows he’d like to get to know her better, whatever it might take. Despite how close they quickly become, Alice is sure Alex will be out of her life for good when spring training ends. But he can’t get her out of his head or heart, and when that distraction leads him back to the minors to get back his pre-season form, nothing and nobody will be able to keep Alex from being the guy Alice really needs.

In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that Sierra Dean and I follow each other on Twitter. She’s a diehard Detroit Tigers fan and I’m a lifelong Kansas City Royals fan, but we would never hold that against each other. Thanks to her tweets, I know she would no more confuse the infield fly rule for a ground rule double than she’d assume that any reader new to baseball would be expected to know either one. And that’s what has made me a confident reader for her baseball-themed romance novels. Whether or not the romance ends up working for me, I’m always assured that every moment spent in or around the ballpark will ring true, without the added distraction of easily avoidable errors.

But make no mistake, the romance is just as spot on here as every little baseball-related detail. Alice has been let down by every person in her life except her young daughter: the brother who treats his depression with pills and booze, the mother who only sees someone who refused to diet down to nothing and trusted the wrong men, and that particular wrong man who left them behind on his way to the major leagues. Why shouldn’t Alex be the same? And yet, Alex is as different to the rest as day is to night. He refuses to let Alice paint him with the same brush as everyone else, but he also realizes that he has to go slowly if she’s going to be able to trust in him. Of course, they both make mistakes, but none are too terrible or insurmountable between two adults who love and want to be loved in return. And when Alex and Alice finally find their happy ending together with Liv, everything that happened before just makes it all the more satisfying. Not a moment is wasted in PERFECT CATCH; every scene is essential. And all through the story, Alex and Alice’s shared love of the game adds that special flavor that you can only get with a well-written sports romance. I can’t wait to read the next one in this series.

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